Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 4, 2015

August 4, 2015

Want to Improve the Health of Millions of Americans? Lift the Embargo on Cuba | Commentary

By Peter Bourne

By reopening embassies, removing Cuba from the “terror list” and making it a bit easier for Americans to travel there, President Barack Obama’s White House has taken initial steps to put an end to a policy that has adversely affected the health of the American people for over half a century. The Senate Appropriation Committee’s action last week to even further ease restrictions on travel to Cuba by U.S. citizens and relax some provisions of the economic embargo, is welcome for a variety of reasons, but perhaps most urgently for the health of citizens in both countries.

Forty years ago, when Jimmy Carter lifted the then-total ban on Americans traveling to Cuba, it became very clear to me as an adviser on health policy to the president, that no element of our two societies would benefit more from the free exchange of ideas than the health of our two peoples.

Full story

August 3, 2015

Afterschool Programs Can Help Close the Achievement Gap | Commentary

By Jodi Grant

One of the sternest and most persistent challenges confronting education policymakers is finding a solution to the “achievement gap,” which leaves so many children from low-income families without a strong or reliable path to success. That was evident during this year’s congressional push to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formerly the No Child Left Behind Act), as many raised concerns that the new House bill shifts funding away from programs that support the education of these at-risk children.

Closing the achievement gap requires addressing the mounting disparities in opportunity — an opportunity gap — that divides children of low-income families children from their more economically fortunate classmates. To be sure, there’s no panacea for problems in our schools that reflect the inequalities in our larger society. But one consistently successful approach has been found not during the school day, but in the hours immediately following it, in afterschool programs and in the summer learning programs that serve as a learning bridge from one school year to the next.

Full story

July 31, 2015

Saving Lives in the 21st Century and Beyond | Commentary

By Mary Woolley

New technology such as CRISPR-Cas9, a genuine scientific breakthrough, is raising hope for patients with cancer, cystic fibrosis, sickle-cell anemia and other major health threats. The gene editing tool, used in precision medicine, allows changes to be introduced into the DNA of any living cell— potentially enabling repair of disease causing mutations, neutralization of disease carrying insects and much more. This technology, developed with support from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, is an example of the realization of the promise of innovative research funded by our federal science agencies.

In recent testimony before a key subcommittee in the Senate, Dr. Keith Yamamoto, executive vice dean of the school of medicine at University of California, San Francisco, described the importance of federally funded research in the “development of new technologies that produce progress in leaps rather than steps.” Members of Congress from both sides of the aisle are also making the case that it is time for our nation to put more muscle behind medical innovation. During that same hearing, Subcommittee Chair Ted Cruz, R-Texas, noted that the U.S. is “paying billions and trillions on the back end” to deal with the consequences of disease rather than paying on the front end to develop cures. He said the nation is expected to spend $226 billion on treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and dementias in 2015 — nearly four times the amount spent last year alone.

Full story

July 30, 2015

For Israel’s Sake, Don’t Reject the Iran Agreement | Commentary

By Amram Mitzna

Nearly every day since the nuclear agreement with Iran was finalized, more Israeli generals and security chiefs have come forward with the same message: The deal is surprisingly good for Israel’s security. And as a retired major general who oversaw many elements of the Israeli military, I feel it is my duty to join my colleagues.

No agreement is perfect, and defenders of the deal should not sugarcoat its serious implications.

Full story

After the Nuclear Agreement, a Ticking Clock | Commentary

By Alireza Jafarzadeh

At the White House recently, President Barack Obama hailed the just-announced nuclear agreement with Iran as “the best deal.” A closer look at the details of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, however, provides little cause for celebration.

First and foremost, the agreement does not actually prevent Tehran from having a nuclear weapons capability. To the contrary, it guarantees the regime several potential paths for building the bomb in the future. That’s because the JCPOA preserves and legitimizes Iran’s basic nuclear infrastructure — including an industrialized uranium enrichment program — with some restrictions that phase out in as little as a decade.

Full story

July 29, 2015

Congress Regulates Internal Speech for Good Reason | Procedural Politics

It is often noted there are two kinds of members in Congress: the showhorses and the workhorses. That’s probably an oversimplification, since most members consider themselves workhorses, but with a flair for show. Politics, after all, is a lot like show business, with public attention and appreciation focused on those actors who are able to entertain and project their roles in a convincing and effective manner. On Broadway, the payoff is in audience acclaim and good reviews. In Congress, it is in media attention and re-election.

However, it seems that more and more members are opting for the show ring over the work plough as Congress becomes increasingly polarized and legislative work is less valued and rewarded. This becomes more evident as presidential and congressional elections loom and members ramp up their publicity machines, both on and off the Hill, to set themselves apart from the rest. Frequently this involves running for Congress by running against it, especially when the public mood is strongly anti-Washington, as is now the case. It’s an old incumbent trick for hanging onto incumbency.

Full story

July 28, 2015

Americans Face an Irreversible Rollback in Chemical Safety | Commentary

By Linda Reinstein

Nearly forty years ago, Congress recognized the dire need to protect the public from toxic chemicals with the passage of the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. This landmark law gave the Environmental Protection Agency the authority to regulate industrial chemicals, and gave hope to Americans that they could live in an environment that was free of dangerous toxins.

Unfortunately, 1976 TSCA has failed miserably, and the EPA has only managed to ban five chemicals since 1976. Today, 84,000 chemicals remain present in U.S. homes, schools, the environment, and consumer products. Shockingly, among these ever-present poisons is asbestos.

Full story

July 27, 2015

Motorcyclists Oppose EPA’s Proposed Renewable Volume Obligations | Commentary

By Wayne Allard

The American Motorcyclist Association opposes the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Renewable Volume Obligations rule for 2014, 2015 and 2016. As an association that represents 214,000 motorcyclists nationwide, the AMA urges the EPA to not increase, and, instead, lower the proposed volumes when the final rule is issued on Nov. 30.

The higher volumes of ethanol in the proposed rule would increase the risk of inadvertent misfueling for motorcyclists and all-terrain-vehicle owners by forcing the widespread availability of higher-ethanol fuel blends, such as E15.

Full story

July 24, 2015

Mr. President and Congress: Do Not Undermine Efforts to Combat Human Trafficking

By J. Herbert Nelson

“I was locked up in a cage like the goats and chickens, and all the time, I was surrounded by death. Each day, five or six of us would die, either from illness or were beaten up and shot.”

These horrifying words come from a Rohingya man from Burma, who became a victim of human trafficking and fortunately managed to escape one of the 28 migrant camps recently uncovered in Wang Kelian, Malaysia.

Full story

July 23, 2015

Are Senators Blind to Disabled Workers? | Commentary

By Dewana Samuel

This week we’re celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was passed to help people with disabilities have a fair shot at the American dream. I’m one of the people the law is supposed to help.

In the ’80s, I was shot in the face during a robbery, leaving me blind in one eye. It took months of rehab to recover and I am grateful to be alive.

Full story

Why Are Restrictive Rules Ratcheting Up? | Procedural Politics

One of the recurring, puzzling paradoxes in the House of Representatives is why new majorities, coming to power on pledges to restore openness and regular order, quickly revert to the ways of their predecessors and become even more restrictive in closing down the floor amendment process on important bills.

Proponents of partisan power politics readily explain why this way: “Because they can.” Former House Rules Chairman David Dreier, R-Calif., gave a more nuanced justification on numerous occasions, suggesting Republicans never fully appreciated when in the minority just how difficult it is to govern. Majority status brings with it new responsibilities to pass the party’s priority legislation in a timely and successful fashion, and that often entails severely restricting the amendment process on major legislation to avoid minority party obstruction and weakening or politically embarrassing amendments.

Full story

When Congress Shouldn’t Act: Let States Advance Economic Growth and Protect Consumers

By J. Gary Pretlow

As Congress drags its feet on a number of issues, there has been a flurry of policymaking taking place in states around the country. State Legislatures like ours in New York are taking the lead in advancing proposals to enhance economic growth, empower our local economies and keep consumers safe. That is why it is particularly troubling that one thing some members of Congress are intent on passing is legislation that would ban online gaming nationwide. The proposal currently being considered in the House —  the Restoration of America’s Wire Act — would prevent states from deciding for themselves how to regulate gaming and online lotteries, prevent us from capturing the potential for economic growth these systems offer and tie the hands of our law enforcement when it comes to protecting consumers online.

As the chairman of the New York State Assembly Committee on Racing and Wagering, I have carefully watched the issue of online gaming evolve in recent years. As nearby states such as New Jersey and Delaware have adopted well-regulated systems, they’ve seen a corresponding increase in tax revenue, and the security technology they have employed has not only kept gaming safe within their borders, it has created a legal system where law enforcement can crack down on the fraud and any other illegal activity that currently runs rampant in the robust online black market.
Full story

July 22, 2015

Work Schedules: The False Tradeoff Between Fair and Productive | Commentary

By Ethan Bernstein

If the past is any guide, the Schedules that Work Act (S 1772/HR 3071), fair work scheduling legislation introduced in Congress last week by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., will ignite debate between employer and employee advocates. Yet solutions favoring employers and those that meet employees’ needs may be closer than you think. The debate masks how much smart labor scheduling can benefit both sides.

The bill would provide retail, restaurant and building cleaning employees with at least two weeks’ notice of schedules and compensate employees for last minute schedule changes, split shifts and on-call work. It would give employees in all occupations the right to request scheduling accommodations without fear of retaliation, and require employers to accommodate requests from certain employees, unless they are unable to do so for bona fide business reasons.

Full story

Jonathan Levy Lands at Vision Ridge Partners | Downtown Moves

Jonathan Levy has landed at Vision Ridge Partners (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call).

Levy has landed at Vision Ridge Partners (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call).

Jonathan Levy, former deputy chief of staff at the Department of Energy and policy adviser to then-Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., has left the administration for the private sector.

He is officially joined Vision Ridge Partners as director of policy and strategy on July 1, where he will focus on investments in clean technology and related markets. Levy will split his time between Washington, D.C., and the company’s headquarters in Boulder, Colo., with some additional travels along the way. Full story

July 21, 2015

Dodd-Frank at 5: Where’s the Love? | Commentary

By Jim Kessler and Emily Liner

Dismantle, dismiss or defend? Five years later, Dodd-Frank continues to be an enigma. Signed into law on a sweltering July day, its passage should have been a cathartic celebration in Washington. After all, it was the biggest financial reform law since the Dust Bowl. Yet even today, most Republicans still want to dismantle the law, and many Democrats simply dismiss it as weak tea. In fact, the typical Democratic office-seeker sounds off about Wall Street reform as if Dodd-Frank never happened.

But with the usual caveat that no law is anywhere near perfect, we should mark Dodd-Frank’s anniversary by vigorously defending it because it achieved something remarkable: It reformed our complex financial system not by closing off markets or criminalizing legitimate economic activities, but by setting up guardrails that encourage healthier behavior.

Full story

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...